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August 30, 2014 / compassioninpolitics

Is utilitarianism a normative value?

Overall probably a decent topic analysis from LDer above. However he says:

There’s a Sam Harris card floating around that, when read of context, appears to support defining “ought” as literally “maximizing the wellbeing of conscious creatures”. This sort of definition makes the debate no longer about a moral or normative principle.

I would say its normative for three reasons:

1) it is in an ought statement–so its contextually normative (in fact, if its not normative–its not an answer to a statement of ought)

2) its a value, also its an attempt to be “ethical” or virtuous

3) utlitity is normative. (you ought or should do X). Thats normative.

4) Utility is a norm. Ergo modified utlitarianism or consequentialism is normative.

Normative has specialized contextual meanings in several academic disciplines. Generically, it means relating to an ideal standard or model.[1] In practice, it has strong connotations of relating to a typical standard or model

And it is one of the standard models. Aristotle, Bentham and Mill are standard fair in philosophy courses–in fact they and Kant represent the at least 70% of the core.

And utility/consequentialism is an attempt to do the following–and establish the following (otherwise it doesn’t llink to the resolution):

In philosophy, normative statements make claims about how things should or ought to be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, and which actions are right or wrong.

And more evidence here.

The positive/negative distinction is pretty irrelevant. Harris, Mill, and Bentham would generally say don’t do things that have a negative effect on society. The former (definition of utlility) implies or mathematically/logically requires the later.


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